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C. Martin Croker,
I don't understand why more people don't like `The Oblongs.' It seems exactly like the kind of lowbrow humor that I can't stand and everybody else likes. But I find myself in somewhat of an infatuation with the show, while most people don't seem to like it or haven't even heard of it. I'm hoping it will catch on.
The show involves a poor family of mutants who live in The Valley area of Hill Valley. (All the rich folk live The Hills.) The father, Bob, has no arms or legs. The mother, Pickles, has no hair (she usually wears a wig) and is an alcoholic. The oldest brothers, Biff and Chip, are conjoined jock twins who are tough on the home front but losers elsewhere. The only daughter, Beth, is like a cross between something from a Tool video and the French children's book character Madeline. Their youngest son, Milo, suffers from numerous maladies associated with modern children but is endlessly chipper and the most focused-upon child. Milo is often seen with his Valley companions; Peggy, whose head is a hemisphere with beaver teeth at the bottom; Helga, whose appearance and demeanor are connoted by her name; Mikey, who has long saggy butt cheeks; and Creepy Suzie, who is, well, creepy but in a fun way.
After I had heard the description of the show I was sure I wouldn't like it. And if I read the description I just wrote, I probably wouldn't understand the show's appeal. But the show works, very well, and for two reasons.
The first is the dialogue crackles with sharp, bizarre wit. The show doesn't rely completely on gross out gags. Here is one exchange between Beth and her father that makes me laugh every time I hear it:
(The Oblongs home is very cold because the town has shut off their heat in an attempt to blackmail them)
Beth: I think I'm catching ammonia.
Bob: That's pneumonia, honey.
Beth: (Shaking her head) It's too cold for silent P's.
Every episode you get a few great lines like that that leave you howling and assure you the writers' interests aren't strictly to try and push the envelope.
The other main reason `The Oblongs' works so well is that even though they're mutants, the Oblongs function as a normal family unit and love each other. Pickles and Bob are deeply in love (she gave up life in The Hills to marry him) and have a healthy sexual relationship. They're concerned parents who want the best for their children even if they sometimes aren't sure how to go about it. The children feud in an amiable fashion and remind me a lot of my siblings and me when we were younger. The show has heart. This can also be seen with Milo and his misfit friends.
Is it offensive? Not really. Shocking? More than it is offensive at least. The shocks remain somewhat intact because the show is in the guise of a Saturday morning cartoon. The simple, rounded, fun character design, the bright colors, excellent vocal casting (especially Will Ferrell as Bob Oblong) and a general feeling of innocence upheld by Milo, his friends and most other characters in fact, counter what surprises the show holds with functional contrast. Most adult cartoons (North American ones anyway) seem to be convinced that being disgusting and derogatory is the only way a cartoon can appeal to an adult audience. `The Oblongs' tries this as well, but it isn't the shows sole purpose, so it somehow works; I believe, because it's truly what the creators want to do and not just some ploy. It's simply better than shows like `Kevin Spencer,' `Quads' and whatever the hell Tom Green is doing. Items such as these as plain boring while `The Oblongs' manage to strike some sort of balance between the total idiocies of the aforementioned and the humor and brilliance of something like `The Simpsons' (an obvious, at times too obvious, influence.)
There are only 13 episodes of `The Oblongs' and the WB has canceled production. Hopefully, someone else will see it for what is and pick it up. `Seinfeld' and `The Simpsons' took a while to find their audience, and `Third Rock from the Sun' never really did, and they're three of the best sitcoms of the 90's. `The Oblongs' may turn out to be one of the best sitcoms of this decade; we just need to give it a chance.
(I don't know if many people give star rating to television shows, but out of 4, "The Oblongs" rates a strong 3 1/2.)
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